Wisconsin AG Candidates talk issues during first debate

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October 7, 2010

Wisconsin Attorney General candidates debate at Marquette Law School

By Kyle Maichle

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin: The candidates for Wisconsin Attorney General had their first debate of the 2010 election cycle at Marquette University Law School on October 7, 2010.

Republican J.B. Van Hollen, the incumbent, and Democrat Scott Hassett debated one another during the hour long debate which is part of the On the Issues series hosted by the law school.[1] WISN-TV reporter Mike Gousha, the moderator of the debate, asked the two candidates questions from issues ranging from voter integrity to illegal immigration.[2]

The most heated issue in the debate was over the Attorney General's role in the highly publicized Ken Kratz scandal. Kratz, the Calumet County District Attorney, recently resigned from his position after sending sexual text messages to domestic abuse victims.[3] Democrat Scott Hassett attacked the Attorney General over his handling of the case. Hassett claimed that Van Hollen could have referred the case to the Governor's office eleven months ago when the issue first surfaced. Van Hollen defended the handling of the Kratz case during the debate saying that his office did everything they were legally entitled to by law. Van Hollen said that he forced Kratz to resign from the State Crime Victims Rights Board, made Kratz turn himself in to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, and to force the District Attorney to relinquish his authority to prosecute domestic violence cases in Calumet County over to the Attorney General. Van Hollen said that the Office of Lawyer Regulation failed to do its duty to take any disciplinary action on District Attorney Kratz.

The other heated issue during the debate was over Scott Hassett not having the proper continuing legal education to be a licensed attorney in Wisconsin. On September 24, 2010, the State Board of Bar Examiners allowed Hassett to practice law despite he did not actively practice in the profession from 2004 to 2009.[4] When asked by Mike Gousha about his law license, Hassett said that the issue was nonsense and further defended that he had the proper education to practice law. Van Hollen called on Hassett to finish his continuing legal education credits. Under state law, a law license is not required to be the Attorney General.[5]

Attorney General Van Hollen defended his record during the debate on the merits of stopping Medicare fraud, partnering with local law enforcement to stop internet crimes against children, upholding voter integrity, and partnering with federal officials to stop illegal immigration. Hassett said during the debate that Van Hollen was a partisan Attorney General over his refusal to defend the state on the domestic partner registry law and stem cell research. Also, Hassett accused Van Hollen of being politically motivated by attempting to join lawsuits on overturning the federal health care reform, upholding Arizona's immigration law, and suing the Government Accountability Board just before the 2008 election. Hassett's goal if elected is to make the Attorney General "the people's lawyer."

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